( Courtesy NABC/USHBC )

The North American Blueberry Council and the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council have hired Kasey Cronquist as president of the groups.

He succeeds Executive Director Mark Villata, who plans to retire at the end of the year, according to a news release. Cronquist starts July 29.

Cronquist comes to the blueberry groups from the California Cut Flower Commission, where he was CEO and ambassador. There, he was responsible for generating revenue, managing grants, advocating for the industry and running public awareness campaigns for California’s cut flower industry, according to the release.

He is responsible providing oversight on the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council’s national promotion, health research and education programs. At the North American Blueberry Council Cronquist leads its role as a voice of the highbush blueberry industry, according to the release.

 “After 25 exciting and rewarding years working for the North American Blueberry Council and U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, I’m pleased to be welcoming the next phase of leadership in Kasey,” Villata said in the release. “We’ve seen the blueberry industry grow tremendously over the years and I’m optimistic the organization will continue to remain an industry leader for many years to come.”

Tom Bodtke, chairman of the North American Blueberry Council, said the groups’ executive committee exhaustive search led them to Cronquist.

 “He is a high-energy leader and strategic thinker whose skills in creative problem-solving, team building and communications will bring great value,” Bodtke said in the release.

Villata was instrumental in creating the USHBC/NABC as they are today with funds that spread consumer awareness of the berry and the health benefits of the 770-million-pound crop.

“Mark started when the NABC had a budget of $500,000 and has led the growth of the organization to a $10 million federal research and promotion program,” Chris Barnhill, chairman of USHBC, said in the release.

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